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January 2, 1981

Fatal pulmonary emboli still being missed

JAMA. 1981;245(1):13-14. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310260007002

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Patients with pneumonia are still dying of an additional, undiagnosed condition: pulmonary embolism. So are some patients with congestive heart failure. Elderly patients are particularly likely to die with unrecognized emboli in their lungs.

These are some of the findings from a study of 1,455 autopsies performed at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now part of Brigham and Women's Hospital). The autopsies were performed on 61% of all patients who died at the hospital between January 1973 and December 1977. Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD, a cardiology fellow in the Department of Medicine, was chief investigator for the study and reported the findings at the recent meeting of the American Heart Association at Miami Beach, Fla.

Goldhaber and co-workers Charles H. Hennekens, MD, DrPH, Denis A. Evans, MD, Elizabeth C. Newton, and John J. Godleski, MD, also reviewed all hospital admission forms for the patients who came to autopsy. They found